Where to see Southern California wildflowers
Every spring, a fresh bloom of Southern California wildflowers appears (assuming we’ve had some rain). Here are the best places to see the blossoms.
Spring is almost here, which means Southern California wildflowers are about to make their appearance.
Whether you’re looking to go on one of the best hikes in L.A. to catch the colorful blooms or even take a day trip to see the desert flora, there are many options when it comes to trying to see Southern California wildflowers. So during those years when there’s been a bit of winter rain in Los Angeles, take advantage of it and head to one of our favorite spots below.
All that said, don’t expect any superblooms in 2022, or really any blooms of notable size. At all of the spots in our list, precipitation has been inches below average, and well off the mark of what’s needed for beautiful blossoms, let alone a superbloom. So don’t expect the widespread poppy-fueled hysteria of 2019 to return to the wider region this year.
Where to see Southern California wildflowers (and the latest bloom status)
1. Point Dume
Take a hike along the top of the iconic Malibu cliff and you’ll find bundles of giant coreopsis that turn from dusty green to lively yellow each winter and spring (it’s not as dramatic as the desert blooms but it is reliable—and already showing color as of early March). You’ll find a very limited number of parking spots on Cliffside Drive, between Birdview Avenue and Dume Drive, but the flowery bluff also makes a lovely hike from the sandy beach below.
2. Palos Verdes Peninsula
On the Palos Verdes Peninsula, wildflowers bloom year-round thanks to its coastal location, but like most Southern California locations, March and April are peak months. In the summer, you’ll see buckwheats with soft white blooms, cactus, native milkweed, cliff aster and California aster. Head to any number of the area’s nature preserves—the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, Linden H. Chandler Preserve, George F. Canyon and White Point Nature Preserve—in the springtime to try to catch blooms. For those years when wildflowers disappoint, consider the manicured displays at South Coast Botanic Garden as an area alternative.
3. Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Poppies are beautiful when they cover the desert hillsides in orange flowers. But poppies are also fickle—and this year isn’t likely to produce a sublime showing. If there’s too much rain, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve can only expect a moderate poppy season. Too dry? Not a great bloom either (but you could still see some other wildflowers). Peak poppy season is late March to mid April—a short window if you want to catch the blooms at their height. Check the park’s website for the latest bloom status (or tune in to the livestream, which right now has some very visible patches of orange), as well as our full guide to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
4. Point Mugu State Park
There are about 900 native plants that grow throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, so you’re bound to find small patches of wildflowers on any trail in the area. However, if you’re looking for the best chance of a spectacular sight—which seems unlikely this year—head to Point Mugu State Park and Rancho Sierra Vista, both of which flank the western end of the range. Try taking the Chumash Trail; it starts at PCH and is a steep climb, where chocolate lily and globe gilia are known to grow along the ridgeline. Or start on the north side, at Rancho Sierra Vista near Thousand Oaks where you can walk the rolling hills in serch of wildflowers under the shadow of Boney Mountain.
5. Idyllwild Nature Center
Located in the San Jacintos Mountains, wildflowers are such a big deal here they have an entire festival around them. The Idyllwild Wildflower and Art Show typically arrives just in time for the region’s peak wildflower season (which comes much later in the season due to the area’s elevation around 5,400 feet). So if you head over in late May, you’ll find a variety of species, including western azaleas, a variety of lupine, both leafy and Alpine asters and a variety of penstemon. If you travel above 6,000 feet, you’ll find even more varieties, but those tend to bloom even later in the season (say, June or even July). If you’re looking to take a hike to see the flowers, try the Summit Trail from the nature center down to the meadow in the County Park, then returning via the Perimeter trail.
6. Malibu Creek State Park
Though the landscape was significantly altered the wake of the devastating Woolsey Fire, Malibu Creek State Park has shown considerable signs of recovery since 2018. That said, though winter rains carpet the park in green, the most recent wet winters never quite brought a miracle superbloom to the region—which doesn’t exactly bode well for this very dry year. That said, it’s still a remarkable spot that’s worth a visit any time of year.
7. Chino Hills State Park
Chino Hills may not achieve full-blown superbloom status, but the state park pretty much looks like the Shire after a wet winter—which, unfortunately, looks pretty unlikely this year. But in those years when we do have rainfall, small patches of poppies line some of the dirt trails over rolling green hills, with ribbons of yellow flowers lining ridges and snow-capped mountains visible in the distance. Follow the lone park road, and just before it turns toward its terminus, you’ll find a dirt parking lot where Bane Canyon Road turns into Telegraph Canyon Road. Follow the signs for the Bane Ridge Trail and you’ll encounter poppies within 10 minutes. You’ll need to pay to park ($10 for the day of $3 per hour), though it’s free in the residential area near the entrance—but you’ll be tacking two to three hilly, shadeless miles onto your trek.